Andrew Coyne writes, in The National Post, that there's not a dime's worth of difference between Canada's three major political parties:
This is our politics, then, at least for the next two years: three parties offering more of the same, saying little, differing less, wholly in thrall to their leaders, and applauded on all sides for their pragmatism and discipline. Bliss is it in this dusk to be alive.
Parties have become empty vessels, waiting to be told by their leaders what they believe. There is, of course, the Conservative Party:
Pride of place, of course, goes to the Conservatives, who have devoted most of the last decade to shedding any vestigial belief systems in the service of electing what they learned to call a Harper government. This was called “moving to the middle,” or in other words giving up, and was greatly applauded by the wisest heads as a sign of maturity. For as long as they continued to believe things they could never win power, and without power they could never put into effect all the things they no longer believed in.
And so the party that was against deficits became for them; the party that wanted to cut spending instead raised it to record highs. The party of tax reform became the party of tax distortions. The party of free markets became the party of corporate handouts and 1970s-style industrial strategy. The party of free trade became the party that banned foreign investment and raised tariffs.
The same thing has happened to the NDP, which used to think of itself as Canada's conscieence:
At this weekend’s convention of the New Democratic Party, the great question to be decided is whether the party will prove itself, in the current phrase, “ready for government.” Much speculation has centred on whether it will bow to the demands of its leader, Tom Mulcair, and renounce its commitment to socialism. But in truth, this is merely part of a larger project of renouncing its commitment to much of anything.
Perhaps the odd resolution will sneak through that in some way departs from the status quo, the leader’s wishes or the undiluted pursuit of power. At which point the media, those active volunteer enforcers of party discipline, will again descend to ridicule this impudent individuality, this insult to authority, this failure to do as they were told.
Then there are the Liberals. Justin Trudeau says his campaign will be bottom up: He will listen to Canadians and develop his platform based upon the principle that citizens -- not leaders -- control the party. Coyne is not convinced that this is what will happen:
His authority will be absolute, owing nothing to either the caucus or even the membership, but having been elected, in the main, by people with no attachment to the party, whose loyalty is entirely to him, or at least his Twitter feed. As such he will have a free hand to take the party in any direction he likes, which on the evidence is straight into the same valley of indistinction where the other two parties await: so far as he has allowed a glimpse into his thinking, it has been to suggest he would not change much of anything.
If Coyne is right, we are in a very bad place. But, if Justin really does seek guidance from the people, he will re-establish responsible goverment in Canada. That was certainly not his father's template. In fact, responsible government began to wither under the first Trudeau. We are about to learn how Trudeau Two works.